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FOTOTROPIA by Corina Matamoros
Curator of the National Museum of Fine Art. Havana Cuba

Bogotá, Havana, Rome, Paris... Multiple scenarios, various academies, dissimilar contexts. Travels, escapades, perhaps the forced dislocation of this young native creator from the Colombian city of Santa Marta, who seems to insist on a kind of conflict that has spread over wide geographical areas of the so-called South. His voice always has a particular tremor, born from his original environment, which has been reproduced ever more rapidly on a global scale.


Fototropías is a collection about the sense of belonging, in an age of global communications. It is an installation that speaks to us about what ties us without us being able to invoke any reasonably sane explanations. It doesn't matter if these ties represent a geographic space, a religion, a culture, a biological need or love... The feeling of belonging can be the same as the burden of the Diaspora, the loneliness of a traveller, the nostalgia of an emigrate, the rules of civilisation, or the well-known ways of the birds. And it carries with it its compulsory corollary: the counterweight of being adrift, the instinct to return, a certain history with death.


In Fototropías, this stubborn Colombian traveller's bag has been carefully but firmly tied. We don't know whether, in either a spontaneous or forced way, those ties prevent the final departure and suggest an eternal umbilical cord. No one can ever leave everything, but no one will ever stay forever. And so life is sketched, abridged in the uncertainty of return; a life here and a life there. With iron, cement and any old strings, the artist aims set up a kind of shifting sense of belonging, these tough materials underlining the agony of the obstruction. On earth, our birthplace, the artist highlights the bags enclosing the life of the traveller. Arranged in household pots, or on the ground in some drawings, the bags want bite into an existing universe, into something very solid that existed before the trip.


This initial universe that determines who we are could mean both the warm waters searched for by spawning fish, and the favourable fertile lands where seeds germinate and grow, the sacred stone of prayer or the town where your ancestors lived. Chacín seem to think of all kinds of motion and movement of species. The whole earth seems to struggle in a dislocation that is such that the sensitivity of its creator feels biologically and socially threatened. As if the path to the light that we need as living beings had become blurred and misfortuned.


That path could also mean the path of death that runs through the lands of Central America in pursuit of a dream border as a saviour. The path could be that of a simple plant seeking to photosynthesise or that of a man in search of work.


Magnificent drawings run parallel to the installation where bags come to life, always hanging and gagged by a variety of dangers and a wide range of ties. The creator is establishing common standards for all species that inhabit the planet, leaving a glimpse of how macro social, political decisions, economic imperatives, social dissent, inequities or ecological waste are forces that threaten our ability to walk towards the light.


The danger of extermination of the Amazon forest or anti-immigrant laws are impediments to reaching that light that man so needs. Fototropías are rejections by the current world order. Fototropías are the irreparable losses of a species degraded by the actions of mankind,
which have erased the instinct to return to the habitat. Or fototropías are the subject, alienated between staying and going.


In the Latin American scenario, creators and works can come together that have been equally attracted to this contemporary dichotomy. The vast inequalities among people, the millions of dispossessed beings and enormous economic power that outlines everyone's life, increasing and multiplying these differences to sustain itself, pushing millions of people into dislocation.


Today we suffer from pandemic uncertainty.  Home is the place where we are and also the remote site that we dream of, the journey that we undertake and the anxiety of the retour. Home has left home, it has spread among unexpected areas, taking us by surprise.


Even time and space have become different, as if another physical level is imposing its precepts. We enter into cultures that seem to live in another historical present, similar to the past, while in others, time is going by quickly, swiftly precipitated by the TV screen. The huge movement of individuals and families, either forced or voluntary, changes notions of distance, while electronic messaging seems to be the big star of human communication.  What is this heritage today that shapes me as an inhabitant?


With artists like Kcho we have gone on travels across the sea. From the windows of an installation by Sandra Ramos we glimpse fantasized objects of consumption.    We can travel on the hoods of Mexican Bathsheba Romero, and with the aid of unused maps of Buenos Aires by Jorge Machi if we lose our way. Somewhere, both the imaginary and real architectures of Garaicoa await us, while Abel Barroso makes a bridge over landscapes where we can find two totally different cities at each end.


If we were new migrants, a sense of return would not hurt us. But what if we are a bluff and we carry around our world in a bag like Cildo Meireles tells us? Is it true that any place is a good place to live? If so then why then migrate? Why do so many people die trying to reach another shore, another sea, another land, another frontier, another street, another house?


Chacín has chosen to tie their bags. He has felt this great dilemma of today in contradiction and ambiguity. And he has added an environmental component to it that is very particular to its sensitivity, encouraging one to think about the issue from a perspective that goes beyond man and which involves all living beings on the planet.


The Caribbean in which we live has many reasons to move, but eventually those reasons are very similar to the reasons of the entire South. There is no freedom to choose where in the world to plant a tree, a seed, a humble home. There are properties, boundaries, laws, policies, differences and economies to say no. And people flee, run, escape, heave, dream, go back, remember... And in order to flee, run, escape, heave, dream, go back and remember you can die again, be taken prisoner, violate laws, get deported and humiliated.


The world seems to no longer belong to us as it did before and at our own expense we carry our memory, perhaps, it is our only home. He agrees with José Luis Brea when he says that we have seen the decline of the "Major identity-producing machines" and witnessed the emergence of others such as commodities. Fortunately for us, there are still those works that investigate the contradictions and ambiguities of our plural identities. Works that may well tell us, as noted García Canclini, about moving far away from stereotypes in a solvent globality such as those in the prevailing local folklore. An art that has not completely gone and is yet to come back.



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